A differing opinion of the Bellefonte mascot
As a long time admirer of Native American culture and an alumni of Bellefonte Area High School, the two subjects are interwoven because of our mascot. My first mascot was the Iroquois of Wesleyville Elementary of the Iroquois School District.
Having a Native American mascot and school district mad me aware of the Native American history of the area. I moved to Bellefonte in 4th grade.
The name Red Raider in of itself meant nothing to me but at my first football game, the mascot, a Native American princess, made me fall in love with the Native American all over again.
Unfortunately, the education I received through the Bellefonte district did not provide me much information about the local tribes and their culture.
As I was researching information for this letter, the name Chief Woapalanne, Bald Eagle, was spoken.
I’m 59 years old and Bald Eagle is a name ubiquitous through our area but I never knew it referred to a chief.
This brings me to the reason for my email.
There are some promoting the removal of the Bellefonte Red Raider mascot. Someone has a saying that as long as people speak of the deceased, the deceased remains alive. This is why it is a bad idea to remove the mascot. Instead of removing the mascot, it would be better to promote the teaching of local Native American history and customs in the schools. I was amazed at how much I don’t know while doing my own research. Bald Eagle school district is named after Chief Bald Eagle but their mascot is an eagle. It would be more propitious to change their mascot into a Native American chief, Bald Eagle, than to remove Bellefonte’s Red Raider.
Apparently, the name is offensive but only if you want it to be offensive.
Let’s start with red. My second favorite color behind green. Red is bold, fierce and represents strength.
Looking red up in Wikipedia, it says it has a dominant wavelength. Red is the color most associated with courage. It’s associated with love. It has the strongest response of all colors.
There are negative aspects of red but is it necessary to focus on the negative?
Is it derogatory to Native Americans? In the past, yes but this is 2020. In my research, there were pictures in some tribes with the skin painted red so people must look at the positive side of red. The word raiders is a little use word in today’s lexicon. Myself, it was always the Native American. We could change it to a Scot or a viking but this will not keep the Native American in the forefront of people’s mind.
The history and culture will die for lack of knowledge of it. Is this what the Native American community wants? My children grew up in a school district whose mascot was the bullet in reference to the Revolutionary War so there was no reference to the Native American culture.
If you ask any of them who were the local Native tribes, I would be very surprise if they could tell you.
It is my opinion that instead of tearing down an emblem of long standing in the area, it would be better to build on the foundation of what is here. By bringing local Native American culture into the school, it will continue to live.